07 March 2022
Create a hiring strategy for a user-centric approach ...and better results
In today’s hyper digital world, a focus on User Experience (UX) is key. And even though all the tools, software and knowledge exists to do so, a complete user centric strategy requires another essential part: having and keeping the right people on your team. That’s where a consistent hiring strategy comes into play. Ilaria Padovani, UX Lead at Decathlon Belgium shares best practices and insights in how your hiring strategy can positively impact your user centric approach.
“In UX, having people on your team with the right attitude and soft skills is everything.”
A hard focus on soft skills
“Our recruitment process for UX positions at Decathlon consists of three phases. In the first phase, we assess a candidate’s general profile, together with the hiring manager. The focus here is to look at their hard skills and soft skills, and to find out if there is a match in long term goals and expectations from both sides,” Ilaria explains. “In the next phase we take a more in-depth look at the candidate’s soft skills. What are their leadership skills like? Can they translate data and jargon into compelling cases? Do they bring a positive attitude to the team?”
Franky Schouwer, UX Designer at Materialise agrees: “What we look for in a UX professional is someone who is a very strong communicator. This person needs to not only be good at the actual UX design but also be able to articulate design decisions to different stakeholders in a clear and persuasive way.”
A stronger focus on soft skills is a trend throughout the market, but in UX, this shift is even more visible. Ilaria: “A big part of UX design is being an evangelist. Of course the work is data-driven, but it often takes more than stats and numbers to motivate your team or to justify design decisions to stakeholders. That’s why being persuasive, being able to tailor your message to different internal and external stakeholders, and having an infectiously enthusiastic attitude towards the project are a major part of the job description.” That’s not to say that the hard skills are no longer important: “To do the job well, you obviously need specific knowledge of the tools and methodologies used. But we know that someone who is motivated to learn about the software and methods, will do what’s necessary to quickly pick it up – again, that’s why willingness to learn and a can-do attitude are so important. Much harder to cultivate from scratch are those valuable communication and leadership skills.”
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"Having people on your team with the right attitude and soft skills is everything.”
Since evaluating soft skills can be very subjective, specialized help can be useful there. “At Decathlon we work with a coach specialized in personal development to evaluate the attitudes and soft skills.” Having a specialist evaluate those skills together with the hiring manager makes this phase of the recruitment process more standardized. Besides serving as a double check, a professional coach has the expertise to see beyond the first impression and get a deeper understanding of the candidate’s personality, motivations and future goals.
If a candidate has what it takes to do the job, then it’s onto the final phase: making sure they’re a good fit for the company. That’s why Ilaria advocates for always having a meeting with the team as an integral part of the recruitment process. “For marketing roles we always have the candidate meet with the team, usually paired with a business case presentation,” She explains. “This gives us the chance to see their soft skills in action, as well as feeling what the team chemistry is like.”
Having the entire team meet with a candidate can be very time consuming, so sometimes you need to be creative. Tina Turay-Benoit, Lead UX with AXA, shares. “The interpersonal chemistry is important. So affinity and team complement becomes a big part of the evaluation.’”
That does not mean that you should only hire candidates that look and think like you. “When we talk about affinity, it’s not about finding people who went to the same schools or share the same hobbies. It’s about our core values being aligned, and whether the candidate feels comfortable with the company culture,” Ilaria clarifies. “We don’t want a team full of clones. To the contrary: for a team to be successful, diversity in ideas and backgrounds is incredibly important.”
Onboarding for a happy ever after
Once you’ve found and signed the new talent, you’re not off the hook. To foster a long term collaboration, you need to have a sustainable onboarding strategy, as well.
Ilaria: ”At Decathlon this means sitting down with the new employee and defining their mission: what will their individual contribution to the project be? And what do we want their long term development plan to look like? Actively involving the new employee in this process keeps them more motivated in their role. And last but not least, we define one or several colleagues that they can turn to for support and guidance throughout the onboarding period.”
Qualitative hiring as an investment
Such a thorough process may be time consuming, but Ilaria emphasizes it’s worth it. “Having a strong recruitment strategy not only improves our user centric focus; it also helps to avoid hiring someone who turns out not to be a good fit,” she explains. “We invest in our hiring strategy because it pays off in the long term, if it means we don’t have to start the same process all over again in a few months.”
And every manager knows that bad hires can be expensive. “The loss is not limited to the amount of time and resources poured into the recruitment process.” Beyond the obvious costs, it impacts the project in ways that are harder to quantify. Ilaria clarifies. “A high staff turnover affects the productivity within the team, the collaboration with other stakeholders, and it can certainly impact the user experience as well. All things we want to avoid.”
The state of today’s job market also makes a well thought-out hiring strategy increasingly important. “It’s hard enough to find suitable candidates once; let alone having to repeat this process shortly after,” Ilaria adds. That’s why a focus on qualitative, long term relationships is key in the recruitment process – not just as a hiring strategy, but as an overall investment to strengthen the company’s competitive strategy.
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